Assisted suicide occurs when a person commits suicide with help from another person, such as a doctor. As such, this term is oftentimes used interchangeably with the term “physician assisted suicide” (PAS). PAS involves a doctor knowingly and intentionally helping a person commit suicide by providing them with counseling about drugs’ lethal dosages, prescribing these legal doses, and supplying the drugs.
Assisted suicide is now legal in Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. There are also 6 states in the United States in which assisted suicide is legal. These states include California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. A great debate wages around this topic throughout the rest of the United States and the world today.
Arguments for and Against Assisted Suicide
- Many people have formulated arguments in support of assisted suicide. These arguments include:
- Reducing a terminally ill person’s (having less than 6 months left to live) suffering by allowing them to embrace a timely, dignified death
- The European Declaration of Human Rights grants people the right not to suffer
- Doctors shouldn’t prolong life when the person is clearly suffering and in pain
- We shouldn’t interfere with nature when someone is dying
- This is compassionate care that shows respect for patients who want to die with dignity
- Healthcare is really expensive and unaffordable for some people since drugs for assisted suicide only cost $35 – $45.
- At the same time, people have also constructed arguments against assisted suicide. These include:
- Doctors aren’t to do any harm, as per the Hippocratic Oath
- Hospice care and palliative care specialists exist to help people die with dignity when it’s their time instead of having a patient decide when this time is
- Poor people would choose assisted suicide instead of opting for other therapies
- A person’s religious viewpoints also play a large role here. While many Christians are against it, other groups including Unitarian Universalists are for it. Clearly, this is a deeply personal decision.
- The Difference Between Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia
With a firmer understanding of what assisted suicide is, if you’re like many people, you may still confuse it with euthanasia. Understanding that there’s a definite difference here is important. The difference is that with euthanasia a doctor administers a lethal drug. However, with assisted suicide, you must have a sound mind when you voluntarily express your wish to die by using a lethal medication. They must then administer the medication themselves.